"It hasn't always been the best," Jennings shared, recalling his dad's struggle with alcohol abuse. "His idea of love was to provide, financially. It made me feel alone. Especially as a kid because you don't know any better."
A watershed moment in their relationship came when Jennings had been accepted to college to play football, and had a promising career laid out before him. Around that time, he got a call from his mom informing him that his father had suffered a stroke, and had to get his legs amputated due to complications from diabetes.
"That was something that really hurt," Jennings recounted.
In an effort to support his father, he moved back home and put his pro football aspirations on hold to devote his efforts towards helping mend his family.
"My dad gave up his leg for his family, and I felt, in college, it was my time to give up my dream for him," Jennings explained. "Being closer to home changed the way me and my father related to one another. My dad got lost at one point, but I never held a grudge against him. It just made me want to be there for him even more."
Jennings summed up the impact 2006 had on his life, explaining, "That’s when I began to realize what unconditional love means."
Appropriately, Jennings and his partner, Emma Slater, set their contemporary routine to a cover of Katy Perry's "Unconditionally," and the pair delivered one of the most emotionally powerful performances in the history of the show. The routine was meant to symbolically represent his relationship with his father, and the emotional dance was flawless.
As the powerful performance ended, Jennings walked off the dance floor to hug his wheelchair-bound father in the audience, and the two openly wept as they embraced. The crowd lept to their feet, and none of the judges were able to hold back their tears.
"I'm mesmerized," Bruno Tonioli shared. "I wasn't watching dance, I was watching two great artists painting one of the most beautiful works of art expressed through dance."
"What you just did, I have no words for," Julianne Hough reflected.
"There's nothing special about me, I'm just in a unique position," Jennings said of the praise. "And that man, my family, my brothers, made so many sacrifices in my life to put me in this position, and I never can repay them. So I hope it touched somebody to let people know that a family that prays together and stays together can make it."